Building trust during broken times

by | 8 May, 2020 | Company Culture, Covid-19

So, we’re in Level 3 and we’re heading, we hope, for level 2. Back to normal right?

No. There’s a new normal and we need to learn new skills. I’m not talking about digital skills, though we need these too. The biggest barrier to restoring lives and re-growing our business is establishing trust.

Trust adds speed, confidence and assurance to our thinking and action. Trust is the oil of teamwork. Without it, everything grinds.

In this article, I’d like to  focus on building trust in a virtual setting and then in my next blog I’m going to talk about the return to physical working. 

Now, I know a bit about leading from a distance because it’s what I’ve been doing for over 30 years as an external facilitator – zooming into teams and meetings to help people build their capability, plan for the future and solve tough problems.

We can build trust in a digital world, and it starts with you.


Trust starts with you

  • Acknowledging and respecting identity
  • Building connection
  • Enabling action


Start meetings with everyone saying Kiaora or G’day so we can hear their voice and they can interact with one another; take some time to share what’s happening.  Create a ritual or repeatable pattern at the beginning that gives everyone confidence – one thing you appreciate or achieved or noticed since the last catch up. Slow the pace of the call a little. There’s time.



Why do we handshake?  It’s the first sign of trust: ‘look I have nothing to harm you I come in peace!’  So, on your calls and in your virtual invite people to wave hello, move your camera so people can see you and your hands. We speak with our hands: it reinforces points and shows scale.

No matter how busy you are (and I know you are busy!) create enough time at the beginning of the meeting for everyone to say how they and their bubble are going.  When you do this, make sure everyone is unmuted so that you can hear the verbal reactions of others and see their faces – that’s connection! Use the Brady Bunch screen and add sound!

In a small team meeting, unmute everyone, most of the time, even if a team member has a dog practising the Bohemian Rhapsody. There’s another connection point.

And you as a leader can share some of that vulnerability. Rachel Taulelei, chief executive of Kono, in a recent pod conversation with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, described how she was using  a closed Facebook page for her team, hosting FacebookLive sessions as an open forum for people just to ask questions and see the real her. This is a simple but powerful way to connect.



Lots of experts are saying these times are unprecedented. They are right.  What they mean is we are going to be making this up.  So as leaders invite people to be part of the making up, rather than pretend we had a plan for this all along.  Right now, your greatest leadership skills will be:

  • Thinking what’s the next question we need to answer
  • Inviting the whole crew to think and talk about it
  • Asking the question and giving your crew, team and network time to work on the answer
  • Then inviting them to be part of the action.

Action and invitation creates calm and a sense of belonging.


Virtual meeting basics

There are some basics in running your meetings that you must get right.

  • Is your camera set up right? Look at your own set up. Can people see your hands? Are they looking up your nostrils and what’s interesting in the background? Make sure your shoulders are down, so you look calm and relaxed. Let people see the whole you.
  • Are you ready? The great things about virtual meetings is there is no travel time.  The worst thing about virtual meetings is there is no travel time.  Before you start, take time to get calm and ready for the conversation and being with your people and ready to lead. And also, go to the toilet, have a drink, get your papers ready. And practice speaking on the out breath not on the top of your breath so your tone is lower.
  • Is your meeting ready? Virtual meetings don’t just need an agenda, they need a plan to get the work done in a way that builds connection. Think about how people will contribute and do stuff in the meetings. Zoom Annotate, MIRO, MURAL are all great tools for getting people to play.

So now you are ready let’s get back to the other three elements to build trust.

The phrase of I love most from our recent ANZAC commemorations is “they also serve”, meaning not just the frontline troops but everyone who supports.  Your team, your communities, your customers, want to serve.  Our job as leaders is providing them a way to pitch in

Nga mihi.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey You

    Great post, some good tips in there 🙂


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